Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance(3)

By: M.S. Parker


Yeah. Right.

I had a bit of extra money stashed. Not even close to a lot, but it would let me pay for the rent on time, which meant I wouldn’t have to worry about being out on my ass just yet, and for a few weeks, I didn’t have to worry about going to bed hungry while I searched for a job.

I’d be okay, for a while. If I was careful.

The big problem was going to be telling my parole officer. That had me grimacing and craving a drink.

Striding down West Muhammed Ali, I cut through the crush that was already forming around the so-called party venue that was Fourth Street Live. It was cold. Louisville, Kentucky is one of the weirdest places on earth, as far as the climate went. Last week, it'd been almost eighty, hot enough that I’d been dripping with sweat as I worked in the garage, but now it was in the low thirties, and people were gearing up for all the stuff the city did for the Derby. Two minutes of horses racing around a track, and the city treats the whole month of April like a party.

Right now, the area around Fourth Street was packed, a stage set up in the middle, cold weather be damned. Girls were tottering around in heels, their skirts barely wider than the palm of my hand. Their shirts, if they could be called that, bared arms and flat, toned bellies, backs, tattoos and pierced navels flashing.


I’m a healthy, warm-blooded male, so yeah, I looked. And I wanted to grab them a damn coat. It was freezing. I was shivering in the threadbare coat I’d found in a secondhand store back when the winter had moved in on us, and I was still freezing my ass off. Under that pathetic excuse for a coat, I had on a flannel and T-shirt and I was still freezing. How could they stand to be out here in what little they were wearing?

I guessed the alcohol helped.

One of the young women looked up at that moment and caught my eye. A slow smile curled her lips, and a hint of appreciation twisted through me, but I just kept on walking.

That place had a dress code and dollar limit even for their outside venue that I couldn’t afford. If I had to drink, it was going to be some of the cheapest shit beer available. My money had to stretch, and my taste buds could survive.

Up ahead, a couple of cop cars sat, lights flashing.

It was instinct that had me turning left on Fifth. There were more of them the next block up, and I hooked another left, swearing as it led me back to Fourth. I made a right and strode past the ritzy Seelbach. I didn’t bother to look at the hotel. That was where the high-rollers stayed. Around Derby time, this place got crazy, but it was only the first week of April, so it shouldn’t have been lunatic crazy.

Except it was.

I dodged a couple of reporters and ducked my head, scowling as I waded through the mass of people. Dammit, I’d gone that way to avoid people.

I was so busy trying to avoid that I missed seeing her right up until she crashed into me.

I caught her arms, trying to steady her.

She was a cute little mess of blonde curls and the kind of curves our society likes to mock. The kind of curves I actually preferred.

For one brief second, we stared at each other and I thought…wow. Then I thought whoa, because she tore away, quicker than that dynamite body should've been able to go. Even as she was moving away, my brain started picking at the puzzle.

She was familiar.

Why was she familiar?

She moved so fast, I was left standing there with my hands in mid-air while I pondered the question. Lowering my hands, I looked up to see if I could find her, and then swore, lunging for her just as she took a step onto the road.

We ended up sprawled on the street with me half on top of her. “The fuck’s the matter with you?” I growled at her as the car laid on its horn, speeding by without even slowing down. Big shock there. Asshole driver. “You want to end up dead or what?”

She glared at me. “Get off of me, you idiot.”

I narrowed my eyes. I'd just saved her life. I wasn’t expecting a reward or anything, but being called an idiot didn't really seem like an appropriate way of thanking me.

“Carly!”

She didn’t even turn her head, although I had no doubt who they were talking to since her entire body went tense beneath me.

“You got a death wish?” I asked. I started to shove off her, my weight going to my hands. Then my body kicked on, sending a loud and clear message to my brain that maybe I didn't want to move. Fuck.

“Get. Off. Me,” she said, enunciating each word like she thought I was slow.

“With. Pleasure,” I said, echoing her speech pattern and drawing my words out more than normal. The Eastern Kentucky twang came through more thickly as I took care to enunciate those two words.

Her eyes narrowed as I pushed off her and settled on my heels, offering her a hand to help her up. Her dark pink dress was now streaked with grit from the road. The pink was pretty, not garish. It made me think of roses. I’d bet my last nickel that the dress was trashed now. Expensive stuff wasn't made to last.

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